Historical Jesus

Number of lessons: 9

About This Class

This course focuses on looking at the claims of Jesus as to his identity and at the historicity of the gospel evidence for who Jesus was and what he came to accomplish.

About the Professor

Mark Strauss

University Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary
Mark Strauss


  • This lesson delves into perspectives and controversies about the historical Jesus. It examines challenges in studying his identity, showcasing diverse viewpoints. Some vouch for Gospel authenticity, while others see them as human-made legends. These varied interpretations complicate understanding Jesus, to be explored in upcoming sessions through worldviews and authenticity criteria.
  • Gain insights into the Enlightenment's historical context of studying Jesus. An era of naturalism, rationalism, and skepticism towards supernatural Bible elements. Scholars like Reimarus challenged traditional views, leading to a quest for the historical Jesus. Hume's arguments against miracles are discussed, but the text emphasizes the presence of miracle stories in gospel and Jewish sources, showing Jesus as a recognized miracle worker. Encouraging skeptics and believers to scrutinize evidence and ponder miracles in history.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the complexities of conducting objective historical research. The lesson highlights the influence of differing worldviews on the evaluation of Jesus's miracles and introduces Martin Kähler's. Kähler's distinction between the "history" of Jesus and "theological impact" of Jesus is discussed, emphasizing that for believers, the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history are one. The lesson also touches on scholars like Rudolph Bultmann, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Dale Allison, who adopted a pessimistic view regarding the possibility of discovering the real Jesus through historical inquiry. Conversely, it introduces scholars who believe in investigating the historical Jesus using rigorous methods. The text presents various criteria used by scholars to assess the authenticity of Jesus's sayings and deeds, including dissimilarity, multiple attestation, embarrassment, semitic flavor, divergent traditions, and coherence, along with their limitations and potential biases. Furthermore, it mentions newer criteria proposed by contemporary scholars to address the challenges posed by the traditional criteria.

  • In this lesson, we explore bias in the gospel writers' portrayal of Jesus. Critics like Strauss and Wrede doubted their historical accuracy, but the lesson argues that their beliefs don't negate their reliability. It highlights Luke's meticulous approach, supporting the gospel tradition's credibility.
  • Gain insight into resolving gospel contradictions and historical accuracy concerns. Learn how summarization, paraphrasing, and interpretation shape history writing. Understand that gospel differences arise from translation and authorial choices, not altering Jesus' authentic voice. Recognize the complementarity of John's gospel with the synoptics, revealing common themes and attributes of deity.
  • In this lesson, you will delve into the intricate examination of whether Jesus saw Himself as the Messiah and Savior. Through the scrutiny of titles such as Messiah, Son of Man, and Son of God, alongside a review of key events like His entry into Jerusalem and the clearing of the temple, you'll gain an understanding of Jesus's self-perception and the ways in which He implicitly and explicitly signaled His messianic identity.
  • You're diving deep into Jesus' multifaceted claims to Messiahship and divine authority, highlighting his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, his symbolic appointment of 12 disciples, his transformative teachings, and his significant miracles. Through the lesson, you recognize Jesus' unparalleled authority to forgive sins and his role as the ultimate judge, emphasizing his unique position in the narrative of faith.
  • In this lesson, you'll delve into the intricate circumstances leading to Jesus' death, scrutinizing the roles of both Roman and Jewish authorities. You'll explore Jesus' own perception of his death, linking it to Old Testament prophecies and understanding its theological significance.
  • Through this lesson, you'll grasp the foundational importance of Jesus' resurrection within Christianity, learn about various theories proposed by skeptics, and understand the evidence affirming its historical validity. Positioned within the broader Jewish beliefs of the first century, the resurrection not only affirms Jesus' claims but also indicates the beginning of a new era, the Kingdom of God, and the defeat of humanity's greatest adversaries.

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